Osteoarthritis is a common problem in aging pets and an important cause of chronic pain. Over 20% of dogs over the age of 5 years have been diagnosed with arthritis, but this likely underestimates the prevalence of arthritis due to many undiagnosed cases. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage on the joint surface is damaged, leading to inflammation and pain. The results of arthritis include decreased joint motion and function. Arthritis develops more quickly and is more severe in overweight pets because these pets are overloading their joints. Arthritis can be caused by an injury to a joint (ie. fracture, ligament damage), abnormally formed joints (ie. hip dysplasia, luxating patellas) or degeneration over time.
Signs of arthritis can be subtle, especially in cats. Contrary to popular belief, animals rarely vocalize when in pain, especially when that pain is chronic. Think of your own response to a sore joint. Most people do not cry out in pain. Instead, they move more stiffly, especially when they first begin to move. Your joint pain may not even be apparent to others observing you, unless the pain is very severe. Our pets respond to chronic arthritic pain in a similar way.
To help you identify pain in your pet, the following are common signs of pets with arthritis:
- Decreased activity
- Difficulty or slowness when rising
- Muscle atrophy (loss)
- Reluctance to jump, play or run
- Stiffness after exercise
- Decreased exercise tolerance
- Reluctance to groom hindquarters (cats)
- Weight gain
- Change in attitude and/or behavior
- Decreased alertness
- Increased sleep
Diagnosis of arthritis is made through a careful examination of the history, patient and radiographs of the affected joint(s). If you suspect your pet has arthritis please schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.
Treatment of arthritis varies for each pet, and we tailor treatment to your pet's needs. The most common treatments include:
- Weight loss for overweight pets
- Daily administration of
- medications daily or as needed
- Low impact exercise (walking and swimming)
- Surgery may be recommended for certain cases
Please contact our veterinarians at Animal Medical Hospital in Saint Petersburg, Florida (FL) at 727-896-7127 for more information.